Susan Pepper, a ballad singer, multi-instrumentalist and educator, has been immersed in western North Carolina’s song and music traditions and is passionate about sharing them. She has taught ballad singing workshops at the John C. Campbell Folk School and Youth Traditional Song Weekend in Massachusetts. She performed with North Carolina ballad singers at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and has been a singer at the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival’s Ballad Swap for several years. Her singing is also featured in the Appalachian music film The Mountain Minor. Her programs and workshops include traditional music, storytelling about her musical heroes (mostly from western North Carolina), as well as original songs inspired by tradition.
In the early 2000s, Susan got started singing mountain ballads after hearing Jean Ritchie and Hazel Dickens perform in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was raised. In 2004, Susan moved to western North Carolina and spent several years learning ballads from traditional women singers including Rosa Hicks, Perl Hicks, Zora Walker, and Hazel Rhymer. She also apprenticed with fretless mountain banjo player Rick Ward in Watauga County. She enjoys playing both fretless mountain banjo and fretless gourd banjo. She first heard a dulcimer player on Beech Mountain from the granddaughters of Edd Presnell, and she quickly picked up that instrument as well. Susan worked for many years at different Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) programs in western North Carolina, teaching dulcimer, guitar, and folk song to young students. Susan has a Master’s Degree in Appalachian Studies. She is proud to call Jackson County, NC, home, where she and her husband are raising a family.